Yesterday, after months of using Lion and its developer previews, I formatted the internal SSD on my 13 inch MacBook Pro and reinstalled Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard. I did not go back to 10.6 for the compatibility Rosetta provides, or the performance gains of an earlier operating system. I reinstalled Snow Leopard because I don’t need the iOS features Lion brought back to my Mac, and can’t see the point of compromising my productivity for an operating system that doesn’t know what it wants to be.
Lion bought multi-touch gestures, and “natural scrolling” back to the Mac from iOS, but for long time trackpad users like myself the control I needed was always right in front of my screen. The first thing I did after installing Lion was to reverse “natural scrolling.” The second thing I did was to enable the one finger dragging preference hidden away in Lion’s Universal Access preference pane. Pinching, zooming, swiping, and multi-finger taping is fine for my iPad, but on my Mac I want the control only a keyboard can provide. Macs have keyboards and keyboard have shortcuts. I don’t need carpel-tunnel inducing, talon-hand gestures for getting things done when I have keys to press. With Snow Leopard I have the control I need and none of the multi-touch gestures I don’t.
Full-Screen Apps bring some of the simplicity of iOS back to Mac OS X. Unfortunately not all applications support Lion’s full screen mode. When using a computer I like all of my applications to behave the same way. Prior to Lion the boundaries of applications were defined by the constraints of the app’s window. Lion’s Full-Screen mode divides my applications by the ones that support Full Screen mode and the ones that don’t. The mechanism for exiting full screen mode is different among individual applications, and restarting in full screen mode is not remembered by all applications. Until Apple mandates consistency among applications I am sticking with the overlapping window management that has served me well since 1984.
Exposé debuted in 10.3 Panther, and for the first time showed users all of their open windows on a single screen with none of the overlap. Mission control debuted in 10.7 Lion, and shows users all of their open windows in groups stacked by application. When searching for a particular window I am more concerned about the contents it contains than the application it is grouped in. Mission Control hides the content I am looking for by grouping windows by application. Exposé in Snow Leopard shows me the windows I am looking for, with none of the overlapping organization I am not.
Mac App Store
Love it or hate it the Mac App Store is part of Snow Leopard, but just like on Lion, users have the choice of adopting it. Since the Mac App Store debuted I have purchased all of my new applications using Apple’s integrated app store. I like the way it manages my licenses, and keeps all of my favorites applications up to date and easily accessible. The Mac App Store is one feature I am glad Apple brought back to the Mac in Snow Leopard.
LaunchPad is the At Ease of 2011. I didn’t need it for launching my apps in the early 90’s and I don’t need it now. Launchpad might be Apple’s first step towards moving away from the file system, but as a power user I don’t need a facade inbetween me and my data.
Resuming state is a nice feature except when it reopens every file and application I launched since my last restart. The applications I need to resume already retain state in Snow Leopard. Firefox opens to the last web page I visited with all of my tabs intact. BBEdit restarts with all of my current documents and projects in the sidebar right where I left them. iTunes remembers the last playlist I was on, and the progress of my latest podcast. Lion brings resume to utility applications like Preview and iCal where I prefer to start with a clean slate. Lion is so cocky about its resume feature that it automatically closes applications in the background just so that I can open them again and see that nothing has been lost. Snow Leopard lets developers worry about resumes, and keeps me in control of my own applications.
Auto save is a blessing when an application unexpectedly quits, but not all applications need to have it. Sometimes you want to save what you are working on, and sometimes you don’t. I would prefer to have Lion’s auto save work like it does in BBEdit. Silently keeping my work protected while acknowledging I have control over the saves I commit.
Versions are a blessing when you want to go back and look at edits made in the past, but Lion’s implementation clutters the filesystem with chunks of data that cannot be retrieved or reassembled without the appalling Time Machine Space GUI. Until Apple rethinks how users interact with the previous versions of their files I will trust my archiving to a dedicated version control system, Dropbox, and Time Machine in Snow Leopard.
With AirDrop you can share a file with anyone running Lion who is standing within 30 feet of your computer. With Dropbox you can share a file with anyone in the world no matter what platform they are running or where they are standing. Dropbox resumes the transfer of large files, syncs the contents of shared folders, and runs in Snow Leopard. AirDrop is a nice icon for a Lion feature I never use.
Mail in Lion is full screen. Mail in Lion includes snippets of your messages. Mail in Lion shows your conversation as a thread, and makes your favorite folders easier to access thanks to the favorites bar. Mail in Lion is my favorite Lion feature, but it is not without flaws. Full screen modes prevents you from seeing the rest of your mail when you are writing a message. Message snippets are hard to read, and cannot be turned off. Conversations are annoying when all you want to do is manage your inbox, and the favorites bar serves no purpose until Lion’s Mail hides your mailbox list unexpectedly. I am sticking with Snow Leopard’s minimal mail window that has no fancy animations and nothing to hide.
Wouldn’t it be great if Lion corrected your typing? Wouldn’t it be better if Lion didn’t autocorrect your spelling errors with the wrong word so that the meaning of your sentences was not lost? Turning off auto-correction was one of the first things I did after installing Lion and is another feature I don’t need to worry about deactivating in Snow Leopard.
I have been harsh in my review of Lion’s new features, especially when you consider Lion is a transitional OS full of potential. I will miss some of Lion’s innovations like built-in whole disk encryption, and an integrated restore partition, but even those features can be replicated under Snow Leopard. The length of time I stubbornly stay on Snow Leopard has yet to be determined, but my choice to reinstall 10.6 has brought consistency back to my Mac in a way no experimental release of Mac OS X ever can.